Homemade chicken stock, fresh lemon, and egg yolks create a velvety bowl of soup to enjoy on a cold day.
We’re in a deep freeze where I live and I’ll bet that’s true for you, too. Extreme Artic air has plunged a big swatch of the country into record-low temperatures. As I write this, it’s 7 degrees outside and I’m watching cardinals and sparrows at my bird feeder. Yesterday a squirrel was perched under the feeder, and I swore I saw him shivering. How do these little ones endure this cold?
On a winter’s day such as this, nothing feeds us humans like a pot of homemade soup, and my celebration of National Soup Month continues with a special recipe for you—avgolemono or Greek Lemon Chicken Soup.This comforting bowl has been made by many yiayias over generations, and with good reason. It’s nourishing, delicious, and beautiful.
Avgolemono (ah-vo-le-mono) was one of few things my dad could enjoy eating when he battled esophageal cancer. I guess the radiation killed a lot of his ability to taste and what wasn’t destroyed was really altered. But the lemon in this creamy soup agreed with him, and the consistency was easy for him to swallow. I remember his friend, Tom Poisson, often stopped by Michael’s Bar and Grill to bring Dad some of this soup during visits.
Sadly, Dad and Tom have left this earth, but Michael’s restaurant remains Maplewood, Missouri, and avgolemono is on the menu every day. This recipe is in homage to Dad and Tom.
You’ll find pages of recipes for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup online, each one slightly different. The great ones will start with homemade chicken stock. Some cooks use rice while others orzo. But the key to any avgolemono is the sauce made with eggs and freshly squeezed lemon juice that finishes the soup. This sauce is the magic; it thickens the soup without any dairy and creates the velvety consistency that’s so comforting. I modified a recipe from a Greek church cookbook for today, and I must confess it’s darned delicious.
To make Greek Lemon Chicken Soup, which makes eight servings, you’ll need these ingredients:
1 (3-pound) free-range organic chicken
2 quarts water
2 celery ribs
1 shallot, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup shredded carrots
1 shallot, minced
8 cups chicken stock
2 egg yolks
½ cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh parsley (optional) to finish
Start with a good chicken, you’ll have a great stock. I’ve also heard from chefs that shallots are preferred in stocks because there’s less sulphur than onions, thereby resulting in a stock that’s less cloudy. Shredded carrots also seem more elegant in the finished soup. And if you have white pepper in your pantry, that also helps to make a prettier stock. Let’s get cooking!
Instructions for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup
Place the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with two quarts of cold water. Add celery, shallot, carrots (celery and carrots can be whole and unpeeled but scrubbed), and bay. Stir in salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour up to 90 minutes; chicken should come off the bone. While the stock simmers, gently skim fat and residue that will come to surface. I prefer to allow the stock to cool and refrigerate it overnight, which makes it easier to remove fat and makes a flavorful stock.
When the stock is finished, remove chicken from the pot and pull meat from bones. You can cube or shred the meat according to your preference.
To assemble the soup, add olive oil to heated stockpot and cook carrots and shallot until fragrant. Add homemade stock back to pot and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook orzo for 15 to 20 minutes (al dente). Add the chicken meat and turn heat to medium.
It’s time to make the “secret sauce!” In a glass or ceramic bowl, beat lemon juice into two egg yolks. Drizzle a ladle of stock into the egg mixture while constantly whisking. I repeated this process twice to temper the eggs; you’ll know it’s ready when the bottom of the bowl feels warm in your hand.
Slowly pour the tempered egg mixture into the soup while constantly whisking. You’ll see the soup turn a beautiful yellow and thicken like magic before your eyes! Taste and add salt and white pepper if desired. Serve with a teaspoon of fresh parsley (or dill).
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup is a wonderful lunch or first course. Served with crusty bread and olive oil and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing on Santorini! Make it a light supper by adding a Greek salad.
How to store leftover Greek Lemon Chicken Soup
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for three days in an air-tight container. Because there’s no dairy, you also can freeze this soup. I like to pour single servings into smaller silicone storage bags for my freezer.
About the blog
Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.